how ariana grande and marie kondo taught me to let go

how ariana grande and marie kondo taught me to let go

I got coffee with a friend the other day, and our conversation drifted to gratitude — more specifically, the pressure to carry gratitude through the seasons of life that make you feel like every step you take is kicking up dust as you move through an endless wasteland of uncomfortable interactions with well-meaning acquaintances, perceivably unnecessary growing pains, and/or promises not yet seen.

As Christians, I think we have a bad habit of defaulting to gratitude. A quick (though admittedly not thorough) Google search revealed that giving thanks is mentioned at least 140 times in the Bible, and some of the more well-known pieces of Scripture focus on the concept. However, in my opinion neither the quantity nor the significance of biblical references to gratitude are an indication that we should be grateful as soon as we’re faced with something difficult, or skip the sitting-in and the feeling-of whatever we encounter during those dusty wasteland seasons.

You’re not doing it wrong if the gratitude doesn’t come until later.

The reason I haven’t written since May of last year is because last summer was one of those seasons of putting one dusty foot in front of the other and trusting that there would be an end to the things I was experiencing, feeling, and losing, and when the dust settled all I could do was sit in it and pray that the hollow spaces left behind would be filled with something bigger and much more permanent — supernatural love.

What I was praying for came true (it always does), but it didn’t happen right away. Since last summer I’ve been much more intentional about the things I’m choosing to replace those that were stripped away, and I think treating my hollow spaces as opportunities to plant new things rather than aching divots in my heart led to a deeper understanding of why they were put there in the first place. Cherishing my soul’s negative space taught me about the gratitude of letting go.

Well…that, Marie Kondo, and Ariana Grande. The thematically relevant “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “thank u, next,” both of which taught me the value of the space left behind when you bid farewell to things that no longer serve you, grow you, or bring you closer to Jesus. The idea of practicing gratitude for the closed doors and the road blocks and the dusty trails through the wilderness, because all of it has created spaces within you that the Lord will fill with things beyond your wildest dreams.

What my friend and I finally landed on when we were at coffee was this: not currently feeling gratitude in your letting go doesn’t mean you never will. In fact, sitting in the pain and the uncertainty with a knowing in your heart that someday you will be grateful is one of the most beautiful examples of faith I can think of.

The other day I drove past something that triggered a memory. I braced myself for the familiar ache, but it didn’t come. Instead, I thanked that period of life for serving me, teaching me, growing me, and preparing my heart and soul to receive the new. In fact, that same night I revisited my list of 25 things I learned at 25, something I haven’t glanced at since this summer because I didn’t think I was ready. I’ll be sharing it here on the blog next week.

The truth is I’m still in process. I’m still learning that there will someday be gratitude in all of my letting go. That it’s okay to sit in what I’m feeling as long as I have the trust in the growth and the next dusty step. There aren’t many things I’m certain of, but one of those things is that no matter what you’re letting go of, the space it leaves behind will be filled with light and hope and love.

Stay beautiful. – K

Why I haven’t written lately (or, a short list of things that make me happy)

Spring is finally here in Washington, and her arrival feels like seeing an old friend you’ve been missing and being able to pick up right where you left off. It’s always amazing to me how quickly I settle into my warm weather patterns and forget the long stretch of gray that I was previously living in, but it really feels like nothing’s changed at all since the last time I felt the sun warm my skin.

sunny picnic goodness captured by my friend Alyssa

It’s about 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and I’m writing this from the sunny side of my yard. Just last night I was here with a dear friend, eating and laughing and swinging on the wooden swing that hangs from the great old tree that’s nestled in the corner next to the white picket fence.

I haven’t really gotten a chance to sit down and write like this since the day after my 25th birthday, and I think the reason for that is I’ve been in process. I’ve been learning that it’s okay to still be learning. That it’s okay to feel like the sunshine has been gone for too long. That it’s okay to give yourself room to just be in those long gray stretches.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and I owe it to you (and to myself) to spend a moment speaking to that. The truth about why I didn’t write from early September of last year until now is that I’ve been in one of those long gray stretches. I’ve been trying to push it down and cover it with the band-aid of a busy schedule but it’s always waiting there for me in my moments of stillness.

The details about my dance with anxiety and depression don’t really matter (though I’d love to sit down and talk about all of it with you if that’s something you’d like to do, the specifics just don’t really matter to me). What matters is that through it all I’ve finally learned to be unafraid of the stillness, the moments when the music stops and it’s just me and my thoughts and the gray. I’ve learned to slow down and actively seek the stillness. And that when I find myself in those moments I can name them for what they are and let myself just be in them. 

I’m still very much in process, still learning the steps of my dance, but I think that with an appreciation of the gray moments comes a much greater appreciation of the sunny ones. So, as promised, here is a short list of things that are making me happy these days:

The farmers market — I’ve been going every weekend since it opened and it’s my favorite thing to do on Saturdays. I love slowly walking past each stand, soaking in the smell of the empanadas (a personal fave from the Proctor farmers market), and saying hello to every dog I see (dogs could be their own entire list of things that make me happy to be honest). Plus they have great deals for lower-income members of our community and I think that’s so important. Catch me next Saturday at the market!

Driving with the windows down — Last summer I learned the perfect way to roll the windows down so you still get a breeze but your hair doesn’t blow everywhere: front driver’s side window all the way down, front passenger window all the way up, back driver’s side window about 1/3 of the way down, and back passenger side window just 1-2 inches down. Don’t believe me? Try it, it’s life changing.

The smell of lilacs — My mom LOVES the smell of lilacs and always stops to smell them wherever we are. It’s a practice I’ve carried into adulthood and I’m so glad I did. We have a lilac bush in our front yard and the smell always reminds me of my Ma.

My sweet, sweet friendships — Lately I feel like the Lord has just been surrounding me with so many beautiful friendships. I used to live my life full of so much anxiety around what people thought of me, and I think in my years since college I’ve learned that the people in your life choose you just as much as you choose them. It’s a freeing and beautiful thought.

Cooking — I honestly never thought I’d say this. But the combo of the farmers market and sunshine in the evening has made cooking so enjoyable for me. My current favorite thing to make is Trader Joe’s chicken sausage with whatever veggies I picked up the previous weekend at the market. So good.

I want you to take a moment and think about the list of things in your life that make your soul feel sunny. As you can see from what I listed, they don’t have to be complicated or extravagant. In fact, I think the happiest moments can come from the simplest things. Today I hope you do something to seek yours.

Stay beautiful,

Kaeli